This past Sunday, I drove to Anderson with Sailor in tow to attend the visitation for my Great-Uncle Kirk. Born on September 15, 1930, he and Bauer became birthday buddies when Bauer was born on the same date in 2005. Since my mom couldn’t make the visitation, I was thankful I could go on behalf of our family. I have kept in touch by letters over the years with Kirk's wife, my Great-Aunt Bobbie, so it was good to see her in person.
Although my initial reaction to giving up a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon (when I would likely have been up in my room, alone, copying quotes or reading) was resistance, it was overridden fairly quickly thanks to TJ's encouragement and to an Anne Lamott quote that kept coming into my mind.
I kept being reminded that death isn’t supposed to be convenient to my schedule because it is an interruption of how things should be. It is supposed to feel abrupt because it is. Death is the antithesis to all I have fought for since I drew in my first breath of life outside the womb. But death also reminds me that I am still here, which is always a miracle. Going to sit with or stand with or greet the loved ones of those who have left this earth is a good practice at leaning further into my own mortality. It somehow helps me live better when I can get a tiny bit closer to those who have died. So I left the comfort of my room on Sunday to join in the comfort happening in a room full of friends and family of the deceased.
I know that driving half an hour to show up and say both hello and goodbye was a meager offering, but somehow it was enough. I gave a few hugs, listened, spoke briefly, and stood in solidarity. I was able to say yes to God's no, and to remember Uncle Kirk's life, which was a very good and kind one. Rest in peace, Uncle Kirk.
One day the time of my own departure will come, and no matter how much I love this life on earth, I will again have to say yes to God's no. In the meantime, though, and perhaps because I experienced a small taste of death a couple days ago, I feel like I have a million reasons to say yes to life. I wrote a poem earlier today that speaks to saying yes to growing old.
"The Color of Joy"
When I am old, my skin will be brown,
Browner than it is now,
With spots and wrinkles and skin too loose;
My tattoo greens will be muted -
Lovely still, but faded.
Old age can bring it all,
Just don't let me be jaded.
I want to grow young, as I grow old,
With a yes to life on my lips,
And a heart that says, "Come in,"
But not in reference to the sun
Which bids me always, "Come out,"
And this is brown skin's birth -
Worth every warm minute, no doubt.
So here I sit, another Tuesday afternoon,
Pen in hand, as always -
Because to live is to write
And also to turn face to the sun.
With only love for life, I am here,
Soaking in the eternal now.
All of it given to enjoy, and nothing to fear.
The sun is a lover that brings old age's kiss,
And I am not shrinking back.
It is a sign of life lived, part played -
This 'enduring of the beams of love.'
I will grow old, skin brown, hair gray,
But those colors are nothing
Because my heart is the color of joy, forever and today.